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David Ratcliffe, President, Pink Elephant

If you're interested in what we're doing here at Pink Elephant, then feel free to post a comment - I'll do my best to respond as quickly as I can.


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    Thursday, March 28, 2013

    Do You REALLY Care About The Environment But Do Also You Want MORE Of What We Have?

    At the beginning of this month we launched our e-materials strategy for all education products. In a nutshell, what this means is we no longer automatically provide printed manuals & handouts for our courses. Instead we load everything up to a server and give students the ability to download the materials and choose whether to continue to access them electronically on their own devices, or print them (in a variety of formats) themselves.

    So we’re not taking anything away, in fact we’re giving the customer more options to chose from in how they take delivery of their materials.

    Even though this strategy has been launched across all our education products this month, the concept is not new.

    1. All of our courses in Self-Paced Online format have only ever used e-materials.

    2. All of our courses in Instructor-Led Online format have also only ever used e-materials.

    3. We have not provided hardcopy reference materials for our special events and conferences for a number of years now. (The sad sight of abandoned 3-ring binders in hotel lobbies around the world gave us the message loud and clear - people don’t want to carry half a ton of paper on their flights home!) We provide access to all session materials, along with audio recordings, on a special web server before and after the events.

    Not only does our e-materials strategy save paper and shipping resources, but it also provides our customers with a number of added value items:

    • The opportunity to access materials on a variety of platforms, in addition to printed form if desired.
    • Because we use a web portal for delivering e-materials, we can now make available much more in the way of complementary materials and resources. For example, the actual files in PPT format to reuse back at work in shorter presentations to co-workers, or to replay and refresh their learning.
    • The e-files are made available for download soon after the student signs-up for the course. So materials can be reviewed well in advance of showing up in the classroom.
    • In the classroom, if the student now brings along an e-reading device (laptop, tablet or smartphone) it means they can access a lot more material than they typically would if they only had hardcopies with them. For example the complete set of ITIL books, or the materials from previous courses they’ve attended.
    • We can quickly update files when necessary, so students can be assured of a better quality and more up-to-date set of materials.

    All this sounds good to me, because you can:

    • Download the materials to your favourite device well in advance of attending the course!
    • Get a heads-up on what will be covered in the course and pre-read to your heart’s content!
    • Cut & paste the PPT files to your heart’s content!
    • If you want printed materials - fine. “Here they are, review them and print whichever sections you want in whichever format you chose!”

    So far the response from our customers is encouraging. Most people see the sense in this and have either seized the opportunity vigorously with a good natured “About time too!” or have adapted quickly because they’re BYOD buffs already.

    But I guess I’m not surprised at some of the cynical remarks I’ve heard too:

    • “Pink is cutting back and not passing the cost savings on to us!”
    • “My employer doesn’t allow me to print!” (Really?? We’ve heard this more than once, so I guess it must be true.)
    • “Our firewall won’t allow us to access your e-materials portal.”

    I shudder to think what other missed opportunities must exist out there when a big company restricts employees from printing or accessing useful services via the web.

    The truth is this isn’t motivated by a goal to cut costs. In fact when I look at what we’ve spent on constructing the tools and resources to make this work, and the ongoing promotion, maintenance and management - I’ll be happy if we’ve managed to avoid increasing costs!

    Our goal has been two-fold:

    1. A desire to conserve precious natural resources and reduce our carbon footprint. It just seems like the right thing to do, even if in the grand scheme of things our impact is relatively small.

    2. To take advantage of e-world technologies to provide our customers with more choices and more resources. Handing out bigger (and heavier) books is just not a viable option.

    So I ask the cynics - “Do you REALLY care about the environment? And do you want MORE from Pink?”

    Come on, give me a “Yes!” and a “Yes!”


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    Posted by David Ratcliffe on 03/28 at 04:36 PM
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    Friday, March 22, 2013

    On This Day In ITSM History

    At the end of March, 1997 the 1st Annual IT Service Management Conference and Exhibition (Pink97!) was almost 9 months away. More to the point, it hadn’t been planned, or even thought of yet!

    If memory serves me right, we came up with the idea of the Conference some time during the summer of 1997. When it came to fruition it was a single track event with a small table-top vendor exhibition in the lobby. The whole thing was introduced, delivered and wrapped-up in just 2 full days in early December at the Holiday Inn on King Street (now the Hyatt) in Toronto.

    A grand total of 61 people attended!

    I only have about 20 very grainy photos of that event. This is one of the best(!) showing me explaining the original ITIL Certification scheme (ah - life was so simple back then!)

    I mention all this only because today - a little over 11 months before the 18th Annual IT Service Management Conference & Exhibition at the Bellagio in Las Vegas next February - we already have more confirmed attendees than that final total from the 1997 event.  Just goes to show you how far we’ve come. Not just in terms of the level of attendance, but also in the planning window. In recent years initial planning for each Conference begins 2 years out.

    In early 1997 no one would have signed-up 11 months in advance for a Conference to be presented by a strange new company with the not so serious name of Pink Elephant.

    Whereas in 2013 there are many who are familiar with, and value, the Annual Pink Conference, and they are so sure they’ll be there next year that they’re prepared to commit so far in advance and take advantage of the special Early Bird deals we provide. This year, register by April 19 and we’ll pick up your hotel bill for 3 nights at the Bellagio. That’s almost a $1000 value - more than the registration fee for Pink97!

    We’ve come a long way in 18 years, eh?

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    Posted by David Ratcliffe on 03/22 at 08:31 AM
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    Wednesday, March 20, 2013

    The ITSM Universe Within

    I’m reading an interesting book right now - “The Universe Within” by Neil Turok.’

    The book begins with an explanation of the title. The author describes how one of the greatest strengths possessed by humans is our ability “To conceive of the universe within our minds”. It seems that (from a scientific perspective, at least) everything else going on in the universe is governed by mathematics and can ultimately be predicted. It was Galileo Galilei who is reported to have said “Mathematics is the language with which God wrote the universe.” Furthermore, Turok stresses that “Whether you lived two millennia ago or will live two millennia in the future,  a circle is round, and 2+2=4.”

    So, if it were not for the human mind and our ability to reason and conceive of new concepts, everything should be so easy to understand and predict. Of course as I read this I cannot help but relate back to our experiences in the more mundane world of IT service management. Connecting together activities, tools, money, timetables and many other resources can be complex, but should be finitely manageable - except for one more consideration .....

    .... People.

    If we need yet another reminder, it’s the role and impact of People that increases risks, yet also provides us with the opportunity to innovate and make things better.

    When making your IT service management plans I’d respectively suggest you limit the focus on documents, processes and tools, etc - and put more thought and effort into contemplating the vagaries of human behaviour, culture and attitudes, as well as their capabilities, needs and expectations.

    Getting inside the heads of People might seem to be an impossible challenge - but it needs to be attempted. You need to consider “The ITSM Universe Within” the minds of your co-workers and customers.

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    Posted by David Ratcliffe on 03/20 at 12:06 PM
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    Thursday, March 14, 2013

    The WHATs and HOWs Of A Great IT Service Management Leader?

    There are two types of leaders:

    1. The Designated Leader - who has been appointed or promoted into the position.

    2. The Self-Empowered Leader - who is not in a position of authority the same as A “Designated Leader”, but who demonstrates many of the qualities of a good leader.

    I’ve talked about Self-Empowered Leaders in an earlier post. And if you’ve been following what I’ve said and written over the past couple of years you’ll know that the concept of “Self-Empowerment” is close to my heart.

    Today, however, I want to focus on Designated Leaders. Designated Leaders in IT Service Management will usually have a title such as CIO or Director. They may even be the head of a more discrete team or project.

    No matter what their title, this is WHAT we need from our Designated Leaders:

    • Understanding of the greater goals of the organization, division or department. These “greater goals” are those which this Leader’s team have to support.
    • Definition of relevant goals for their team. Whether it’s the whole of IT or a discrete team within IT - the Leader’s team needs to have their own objectives.
    • A focus on the future - what it looks like and how we get there.
    • Definition of the strategies and approaches to be adopted to achieve goals.
    • Ability to clearly explain goals & strategies. Not just what they are, but why they’re important.
    • Continual re-explanation and reinforcement of goals & strategies on a frequent basis.
    • Provision of capabilities (resources) to the team. This includes funding, tools, knowledge & skills and time.

    And these are the traits we need to observe in HOW our Designated Leaders go about their business:

    • Honesty - telling the truth and not sugar-coating bad news.
    • Integrity - walking the talk.
    • Reliability - being available when needed, and providing consistent direction.
    • Being true to their values and always doing the right thing.
    • Showing a positive, confident and optimistic attitude.
    • Determined and persistent - sticking to the task when the going gets tough.
    • Inspiring and empowering others to act.

    If the Leader can deliver on all of the above then they’ll generate trust, confidence and the respect of all they interact with - not only subordinates but also peers and higher-ups.

    At Pink we’re considering how we can recognize the great leaders in our industry (watch out for more on this very soon). One thing’s for sure - anyone gaining recognition as a great ITSM leader has to have a profile that covers most of the WHATs and HOWs I’ve just outlined.

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    Posted by David Ratcliffe on 03/14 at 01:26 PM
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    Friday, March 01, 2013

    Most Frequent Searches On This Blog

    Every now and again I peek behind the curtain to see what people are looking for when they come to this blog. I thought you might be interested to see a handful of the most recent:







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    Posted by David Ratcliffe on 03/01 at 04:50 PM
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